Traveling with a baby? Check out these baby travel sleep tips to keep everyone’s sleep on track even when you’re not at home!
Managing sleep with babies or toddlers is tricky enough for new parents when you’re at home and have a lot of factors within your control.
But throw in a new location—where everyone is out of their environment, you’re in a different time zone, and you only have access to so many amenities—and it can be a recipe for disaster.
Traveling with young babies or toddlers is definitely tricky and managing your baby’s sleep while traveling is incredibly daunting for some families.
But that doesn’t mean you should avoid traveling altogether when your kids are little or that sleep should ruin your travel plans.
If you enjoy traveling it can be worth the extra work and sometimes traveling with small children is unavoidable.
Sure, sleep will be off when traveling, but there are some things you can do to optimize sleep even when you’re not at home.
Here are 10 baby travel sleep tips so you can get the best sleep possible when traveling with your littles.
1. Establish Good Sleep Before Traveling
The best advice I can give you is to establish good sleep routines and habits before you travel with your baby or toddler.
Traveling will likely throw a wrench in the sleep system, so make sure that system is very solid before venturing out.
This may mean sleep training your baby or toddler so you can establish independent sleep habits well before your trip. No one wants to be awake with a fussy baby in a family VRBO or close-quarters hotel room.
Once your child has good sleep habits, they’ll be much more adaptable to new surroundings and sleep environments.
2. Plan Sleep Accommodations in Advance
Try to get an idea of the sleeping arrangements and your child’s sleep space before hand. Are you staying with friends who have an extra room for baby or will you be room sharing a small hotel room?
Many hotels have a free hotel crib that you can use, but you never know exactly what that will look like.
Pack and Plays are a great option for a baby travel bed no matter what the room will be like.
The SlumberPod is great for babies who are used to having their own space at home, but will be room sharing on the family vacation or at grandma’s house.
If your baby isn’t familiar with their portable crib and you’re wondering how to get your baby to sleep in pack n play, you can set it up before the trip and practice a few naps at home.
If you have a cot to use as a toddler travel bed, that can work in a hotel room as well. If your toddler has good sleep habits, you can always bed share and go back to separate rooms when you get back home.
We started sharing hotel beds with my daughter around age 3 and just reset the expectations and boundaries once we were back home for her to sleep in her own bed again.
3. Recreate the Sleep Environment
Along with your other baby travel essentials, make sure to pack familiar items from home and recreate the sleep environment in the new space as much as possible. Bring a portable white noise machine as well as travel blackout curtains to optimize your baby’s sleep environment.
You can also bring your baby’s swaddles or sleep sack, and crib sheets. Using the same items for sleep from home will help your baby feel more at home, even in a new place.
4. Stick to the Bedtime Routine
Children thrive off of routine! Keeping your bedtime routine even when you travel with your baby helps cue to them that it’s time for sleep and helps them feel safe and reinforces good sleep habits.
A good baby bedtime routine is one you can do anywhere! Take a few minutes at the end of your day to do your regular or a shortened version of your baby’s bedtime routine.
You can bring a few books from home, your baby’s sleep sack, and do your cuddles or song at the end of the day.
5. Try to Keep A Consistent Schedule
If you’re traveling and staying within your time zone try to keep your baby on their same schedule. Naps may be tricky and short, but you can try and have your baby’s nap around the same time each day and keep your bedtime as close to normal as possible.
Of course there will be times when you keep baby up a little later than normal or aren’t able to get them down for a nap at nap time, but try to stay consistent with your baby’s sleep schedule when you can.
If you are traveling to a different time zone, you can stay on your baby’s current schedule, or opt to get on the new time zone. Going west to east is typically easier. If your baby has a 7 pm bedtime, 10 pm will be bedtime on the East Coast.
If the time zone is drastically different, try to get your baby’s sleep schedule on the new time zone upon your arrival.
6. Get Baby Outside
One of the easiest things you can do to help your with jet lag and get better sleep is to get them outside!
Being outdoors helps establish your baby’s natural circadian rhythm and helps their bodies produce melatonin, the sleep hormone.
Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of outside time each day to help improve your baby’s sleep while traveling. Being in the fresh air can also be a welcome distraction when your baby is struggling to make it to the next nap time!
7. Try to Avoid Overtiredness
Avoiding an overtired baby may be one of the trickier things you try to do while traveling. The truth is, you’ll just have to do your best and roll with it. There are only so many things in our control when we are focusing on our baby’s sleep while traveling.
Hopefully you know your baby’s wake windows and how long she can be awake before she needs to sleep again. If you can try and get her a nap within her normal wake time or regular nap time, then great!
If you can’t get naps in during the day—or your baby refused a nap altogether—aim for an earlier bedtime. It sounds counterintuitive, but when babies are overtired they will often wake up earlier the next morning.
Your baby will likely make up for the lack of sleep during the day at night time.
8. Get Naps in How You Can
Naps can be one of the biggest challenges of traveling with small children.
Traveling with your baby is not the time to have the highest sleep expectations. It is more than okay to schedule a car seat ride around nap time, wear your baby or toddler for a nap, or push a stroller around town while your baby sleeps.
Think through your day and how you can get naps on-the-go based on the activities you’ll be doing throughout the day.
Make sure to bring a portable sound machine for your stroller or car seat nap!
9. Lower Your Expectations
Sleep will almost never be perfect when you’re traveling with a baby or toddler and that’s okay! It’s a new place and the schedule will get thrown off.
Lower your expectations so you can enjoy yourself on the family trip!
No trip is going to ruin your good sleeper forever. Sure there may be setbacks, but sleep is always something you can resolve once you get back home.
Take these tips, try your best to implement what you can, and enjoy your family trip regardless of how your baby sleeps!
10. Get Back on Track When you Get Home
If your vacation ruined your baby’s sleep, it’s going to be okay! You can always get back on track once you’re home.
Babies are constantly going through sleep regressions, milestones, or traveling—all of which can throw off their sleep. But none of that has to permanently wreck your baby’s sleep.
Get your baby back on their sleep schedule when you get home and implement a sleep training technique if need be.
I hope these tips help your baby sleep while traveling and that you enjoy yourself on your trip!